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Pakistani Politician's Alleged Murderer Shown Support by Islamic Hard-Liners

Mumtaz Qadri, center, the accused killer of Punjab's Gov. Salman Taseer, arrives at court, in Islamabad, Pakistan on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011.Supporters showered Qadri with flower petals on his way in. AP Photo

(CBS News) ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's investigators looking into Tuesday's assassination of one of the country's highest profile politicians have found "some possible links" between Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the police commando arrested for the killing of Salman Taseer, governor of the populous Punjab province, and a hard-line Islamic network, a senior Pakistani security official has told CBS News.

Further investigation into potential links between Qadri and any Islamic militant group holds an important key to unraveling the mystery surrounding the assassination of one of Pakistan's best known politicians.

For the U.S. which has cultivated Pakistan as a close ally to support Washington's efforts for securing Afghanistan, Taseer's killing underlines not only the vulnerability of Pakistan's top leaders to the threat from militants, but also raises questions over the penetration of militants in the police and other services linked to security duties, a western ambassador in Islamabad said.

Speaking to CBS News on condition of anonymity, the ambassador said; "This is a big nightmare scenario, which is such deep penetration of security services by militants, that supposedly even well protected leaders are not safe. How can anyone feel assured about the safety of key people, in such a difficult situation?"

Earlier, the Pakistani security official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity said, Qadri's father and a few other relatives had been arrested after he was taken in to custody following the killing.

Pakistani Governor Killed By Own Bodyguard

"These people along with Mumtaz Qadri in their interrogation told us, he had prior links to groups that will be clearly considered as Islamic hard-line ones" said the official. "The matter we are now investigating is: How deep were these contacts? And were (they) significant to the point that Mumtaz Qadri got inspiration and any other support?"

After the killing, Qadri claimed to have shot Taseer to seek revenge for the late governor's criticism of Pakistan's blasphemy laws-an offence punishable by death in the predominantly Islamic country. Though the killing shook Pakistan's political establishment, Islamic hardliners have vigorously defended Qadri for having targeted Taseer.

On Wednesday, ahead of Taseer's burial in Pakistan's central city of Lahore, a group of Islamic clergy from the 'Jamaat-e-Ahle sunnat' of Pakistan - a mainly Sunni Muslim group, urged Muslims to stay away from the funeral prayers.

"More than 500 scholars of the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat have advised Muslims not to offer the funeral prayers of Governor Punjab Salman Taseer, nor try to lead the prayers," said the group in a statement. The statement went to say; "Also, there should be no expression of grief or sympathy on the death of the governor, as those who support blasphemy of the Prophet are themselves indulging in blasphemy".

In a related development also on Wednesday, Qadri was showered with flower petals by a small group of his supporters when he was brought by Islamabad's police to the court of a local magistrate, with a request for a remand that would facilitate the investigation.

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